Lords Amendment

– in the House of Lords at 10:15 pm on 13th December 2001.

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66 After Clause 124, insert the following new clause—

XEXPIRY

(1) This Act, apart from Part 12, shall (subject to subsections (2) to (5)) cease to have effect at the end of the period of one year beginning with the day on which the Act receives Royal Assent.

(2) The Secretary of State may, subject to subsections (3) to (5), by order provide—

(a) that a provision of the Act which is in force (whether or not by virtue of this subsection) shall continue in force for a specified period not exceeding twelve months;

(b) that a provision of this Act shall cease to have effect;

(c) that a provision of this Act which is not in force (whether or not by virtue of this subsection) shall come into force and remain in force for a specified period not exceeding twelve months.

(3) Parts 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 14 of this Act shall, by virtue of this subsection, cease to have effect at the end of the period of five years beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.

(4) Parts 3, 5, 10, 11 and 13 of this Act shall, by virtue of this subsection, cease to have effect at the end of the period of two years beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.

(5) Part 4 of this Act shall, by virtue of this subsection, cease to have effect at the end of the period of one year beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.

(6) Any order made by the Secretary of State under subsection (2) must be made by statutory instrument and may not be made unless a draft has been laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament."

The Commons insist on their disagreement to this Amendment, but propose the following Amendment in lieu thereof—

66F Page 72, line 17, insert the following new Clause—

XEFFECT OF REPORT

(1) A report under section (Review of Act)(4) may specify any provision of this Act as a provision to which this section applies.

(2) Subject to subsection (3), any provision specified under subsection (1) ceases to have effect at the end of the period of 6 months beginning with the day on which the report is laid before Parliament under section (Review of Act)(5).

(3) Subsection (2) does not apply if before the end of that period a motion has been made in each House of Parliament considering the report."

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 66 to which the Commons have disagreed and do agree to their Amendment No. 66F in lieu thereof.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 66 to which the Commons have disagreed and do agree to their Amendment No. 66F in lieu thereof.—(Lord Rooker.)

Photo of Baroness Williams of Crosby Baroness Williams of Crosby Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords

rose to move, as an amendment to the Motion that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 66 to which the Commons have disagreed and do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 66F in lieu thereof, leave out the words after Xdisagreed" and insert X, do disagree with Amendment No. 66F and agree the following amendment in lieu thereof—

66GAfter Clause 124, insert the following new Clause—

XDURATION

(1) This Act shall (subject to subsections (2) to (3)) cease to have effect at the end of the period of one year beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.

(2) The Secretary of State may, subject to subsection (3), by order provide—

(a) that a provision of the Act which is in force (whether or not by virtue of this subsection) shall continue in force for a specified period not exceeding twelve months,—

(b) that a provision of this Act shall cease to have effect;

(c) that a provision of this Act which is not in force (whether or not by virtue of this subsection) shall come into force and remain in force for a specified period not exceeding twelve months.

(3) This Act shall, by virtue of this subsection, cease to have effect at the end of the period of five years beginning with the day on which this Act is passed."

(4) Any order made by the Secretary of State under subsection (2) must be made by statutory instrument and may not be made unless a draft has been laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.""

Photo of Baroness Williams of Crosby Baroness Williams of Crosby Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords

My Lords, we on these Benches would like to argue that we should retain the original amendment which was agreed by the House at the earlier stages of discussion between ourselves and another place. Given the lateness of the hour, I shall put the reasons briefly.

First and foremost, the period is surprisingly long for a piece of sunset legislation compared with earlier terrorism legislation. The original terrorism legislation in 1974, which followed the outrages in Birmingham, Guildford and elsewhere which many people will recall as a result of the operations of the then IRA, made provision for a six-month period followed by a six-month extension, the entire Act to expire within at most one year of the passage of the Act.

In the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989, provision was made for one year and an extension of one year by order, after which the Act ceased to operate. The Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1991 similarly made provision for a 12-month expiry and a maximum extension of a period of 12 months. In 1996, the then Northern Ireland prevention of terrorism legislation made similar provision. In the Terrorism Act 2000 provision was made for the Act to expire after one year in the case of Part 7 unless it was extended by a statutory order. It also required an annual report.

The concern of those on these Benches with regard to the expiry period is that that originally proposed in the Bill of five years seemed to us exceptionally long for legislation so little debated and discussed as this. Perhaps I may remind your Lordships that of the 135 clauses of the Bill, precisely 86 were debated at all in another place. Not a single line of those other clauses was debated in the so-called Xelected" Chamber. May I also point out that some of the major clauses in the Bill such as Clause 17, Clause 19 and others, were never adequately debated in another place. In this House, too, I think that we would have to admit that the debates were, at best, only sketchy for reasons of time.

We do not object to that. We recognise that this is emergency legislation, as we also recognise the scale of the emergency. However, we believe that the original period of five years is exceptionally long to revisit with the full scrutiny of Parliament provisions which will have such a substantial effect on the civil liberties, privacy and freedom of our fellow citizens.

We now have an amendment, to which I believe that the Government have acceded, which suggests that in place of the original proposal to create an automatic expiry of the Bill within a period of one year, we have provision for a Privy Council committee which will review the operations of the Act after two years and will then produce a report, after which the relevant parts of the Bill would expire within six months unless the report produces a reason why they should not so expire.

Let me say simply, by quoting the words of the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, that,

Xin a democracy whose provisions and whose legislation is often regarded as a model for the rest of the democratic world, one should be very careful indeed about allowing this kind of legislation to run for as long a period as is the case on the face of the Bill".

I shall add to that the comment that noble Lords know what happened with emergency legislation passed in many countries that once upon a time were colonies, which then made that provisional legislation permanent—I could cite Malaysia and many African countries. Those noble Lords will understand the great danger if such provisional legislation does become permanent and thus paves the way from democracy to autocracy. On these Benches we do not suggest that that is the case, but perhaps I may say that a committee of the Privy Council, distinguished though no doubt Privy Counsellors are—and I know because I am one of them—is not much of a substitute for proper sunset legislation.

The reason that such a committee is not much of a substitute—let us be direct about it—is, first, that Privy Counsellors come from a rather narrow sector of the community and can have little familiarity with the ways in which the Act will be likely to operate on a number of our fellow citizens, not to speak of those from other and far less fortunate parts of the world. Secondly, Privy Counsellors, by the nature of their position, will be appointed to the review body by whom?—by the Secretary of State. I do not regard that as the clear establishment of the independent judgment of the Privy Counsellors.

Finally, like many other noble Lords, I attended the debates held in another place. There I heard the honourable Member for Hampstead and Highgate complain about the intervention of an unelected House in this legislation. I have to say that what is required for the purposes of scrutiny and review is not only to be elected, but also to have an independent judgment and the commitment of one's own convictions. It is up to another place to find its voice, to express itself and to insist on its own standards of accountability from the executive to itself. It is in that context that I believe that the House of Commons' own reform depends on the willingness of the Members of that House to stand up and demand such reform.

Having made those points, let me conclude by saying that there is no reason of any final kind why Privy Counsellors should not be subject to the agreement of the two Chambers of Parliament in taking up this highly responsible role. It is clear that they should report to the two Chambers of Parliament. I hope that they will feel themselves to be accountable to the two Chambers of Parliament and not only to the Minister who appoints them.

I thank Ministers for the way in which they have dealt with some of the attempts that we have made to modify and change this legislation. I add to that our gratitude to the Official Opposition for the way in which they have conducted their own approach and review of the Bill.

Final victory over terrorists will lie in making emergency legislation of this kind a permanent feature of our democracy, with all the limitations on the civil liberties of citizens that that implies. It is therefore incumbent upon this House to behave not only with great responsibility but to the highest standards of what it is to be—a scrutinising chamber. I am very proud of noble Lords for the way in which they have conducted their part in this Bill. Ultimately, it is now a better and safer Bill, a Bill which will serve well the citizens of this country in an extremely grave and difficult situation. Striking a balance between liberty and security is one of the most difficult tasks any legislative chamber is ever called upon to fulfil. I beg to move. Moved, as an amendment to the Motion that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 66 to which the Commons have disagreed and do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 66F in lieu thereof, leave out the words after Xdisagreed" and insert X, do disagree with Amendment No. 66F and agree Amendment No. 66G in lieu thereof.—(Baroness Williams of Crosby.)

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, has made a powerful speech, with which Members in most sectors of the House will have some sympathy. However, ultimately—even in this House, where there is a strong degree of independence and idealism—we have to live in the realms of practical politics, and we have to look at the totality of the Bill as it is now. It is for that reason that we shall not be supporting the noble Baroness in her assertion in regard to Amendment No. 66G.

We are grateful to the Government for the care and consideration that they have given to the views expressed by the House. We have been fortunate to have a much greater time to consider the Bill—rushed though it has been, complain about it though we have—than Members of the other place were permitted. The noble Baroness is correct: we cannot say that the Bill was considered in the other place. But we have demonstrated here that the totality of Parliament can work well on behalf of all the British people. We have been able to do here that which they were unable to do in another place—that is, to give the Bill considerable detailed consideration. Now, with the help of the Government, we have removed many of its worst faults.

It is a result in which this House can take considerable pride. We have a Bill with which Parliament in its totality can be pleased and which the country in due time will come to appreciate. It has been an immensely hard task for those involved, but we have arrived at what I regard as a satisfactory conclusion. I regret that on this occasion we shall not be supporting the noble Baroness.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration) 11:45 pm, 13th December 2001

My Lords, I note what the noble Baroness has said. However, I must say that she uttered an unfortunate phrase at this time of night, bearing in mind the position we are in, referring to the Xso-called elected Chamber". It is a phrase that she may come to regret later.

I accept that what we propose in lieu of a review of the Act is unique. However, as was made clear earlier, in this country our legislative system does not allow for systematic reviews of Acts of Parliament so that we could ask after mature consideration: does this Act do what Parliament intended when it passed it? We do not have a systematic review like that. It is a matter about which many people in both Houses have complained in the past.

This is a unique structure, asking a group of Privy Counsellors to review the legislation—a minimum of seven; we have not fixed the number. There are 500-odd members of the Privy Council to choose from, of course—some of whom are probably slightly longer in the tooth than myself, it is true. Nevertheless, the chances are that they are likely to be Members of both Houses. They will be people of experience—probably in dealing in the past with so-called emergency legislation. It is an important step.

I must also make the point, so that there is no misunderstanding, that it is our intention that the Act should be reviewed in the way in which it is implemented. It will not merely be a review after two years. It is true that there will be a report before two years, but our intention is that the review will start as soon as the Act comes into effect, so that there will be a constant period of review. We cannot say when, but the committee will be set up and proposals will be drawn up as soon as possible, early in the new year. It has never been our intention that everything should go to sleep and then, all of a sudden after two years, the committee will look at what has happened. Our intention has always been to have a constant review. I hope that no other impression has been given.

Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative

My Lords, will the Home Secretary consult before making these appointments; and, if so, with whom?

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

Yes, my Lords, he most certainly will consult. It is not something that we shall do lightly. It is not a question of the Home Secretary one day publishing a list of names. Of course he will consult as widely as possible. We want to move reasonably quickly on this matter. Much of the legislation comes into force on Royal Assent and, subject to your Lordships' wishes, that will be in a very short period.

I listened to the debate in the other place during the past hour. It is true that there has been a great deal of criticism about the way in which both Houses have dealt with the Bill in terms of time. I accept that in this House the biggest problem has been lack of time for consideration between the Bill's stages. That has caused problems for everyone.

In the other place, many Members could rightly say that three days was not enough time for a piece of legislation such as this—that is a legitimate point—but between both Houses, over a considerable period of hours and days—bearing in mind that the legislation was not rushed; it took us three months to produce it. It may have been produced in an emergency situation, but the Bill is not emergency legislation in the sense of being thought up one week and presented to Parliament the next. It has been improved at every stage of its progress. At every stage of its progress through both Houses changes have been made. To that extent, every part of the process has been an improvement. As the Home Secretary said, 98 per cent of the Bill is there. It is true that there is the other issue, which I shall not go into, regarding religious hatred. Nevertheless, the general thrust of the Bill meets the circumstances in which we find ourselves. It is moderate, proportionate and measured. I also welcome the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, in favour of the proposed amendment.

As this is the last time that I shall rise to speak on the Bill, perhaps I may take the opportunity to thank all noble Lords who have participated—sometimes privately with little billets-doux, at other times vociferously in the Chamber. I also want to thank the team of civil servants who have worked on the Bill—I must say, having seen their office in Queen Anne's Gate, in quite appalling conditions. They have worked their socks off night and day, seven days a week during this process. It has been a massive effort—but it has been damned good experience!

I also want to thank my own private office in the Home Office. Dealing with our day-job on immigration and asylum we have a large caseload in addition to this Bill. I look forward to dealing with all the other Home Office Bills that will be brought before your Lordships' House.

Lastly, I thank the ministerial team. Six Ministers have dealt with the Bill on a departmental basis. It has been absolutely crucial that we have been able to operate as a team and to share the load so that we could put before your Lordships a coherent package of measures. The Bill is long and complicated, but the central issue is a simple one: to take some moderate precautions into our legal framework for dealing with the terrorists rewriting their rulebook on 11th September.

Photo of Lord McNally Lord McNally Liberal Democrat

My Lords, perhaps I can take the briefest moment to congratulate the Minister on what I believe was a parliamentary tour de force. When I watched the Home Secretary in another place, I fully appreciated the fact that he is the softy in the Home Office! I want to thank my home team. I often say that if we had to pay them we could not afford them. We have tried to make a constructive contribution from the considerable expertise that exists on these Benches. We are also grateful for the co-operation of the Xofficial" Conservatives. We have all had times when we have lost our cool, but I believe that we have reached a good ending. I thank the Minister.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Crosby Baroness Williams of Crosby Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords

My Lords, I beg to seek the opinion of the House on this amendment.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 66G) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 48; Not-Contents, 135.

Division number 5 Private Parking: Ports and Trading Estates — Lords Amendment

Aye: 46 Members of the House of Lords

No: 133 Members of the House of Lords

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

On Question, Motion agreed to.